Singapore

More seniors above 60 going to jail

Top 3 crimes are drug-related, causing hurt and traffic offences

Two marriages and eight stints in prison. That is what Johan's (not his real name) life of crime has cost him.

He has been in and out of prison since 1970, all for drug offences.

The most recent jail stint was in 2013, when he was put behind bars for 31/2 years for drug consumption and trafficking.

Johan, 70, is among a growing group of criminals here who are above 60 years old.

Last year, 486 of them were jailed, a 50 per cent jump from 2013.

Drug-related offences were among the top three crimes committed. Others are causing hurt and traffic offences.

The State Courts also dealt with 196 offenders above the age of 65 last year, the highest in at least three years.

These figures mirror crime trends in Britain, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan.

In Singapore, the seniors in prison were mostly repeat offenders.

Almost nine in 10 (87.4 per cent) of last year's prison population aged above 65 had been admitted at least once before, according to prison statistics.

Johan was first jailed for a year in 1970 when he was 21, after getting caught for possession of cannabis.

He said: "It was after had I left school and had started work. The circle of people I mixed around with... You get triggered and tempted by them, so you tend to try. After that, you get hooked on it."

After his release, he tried new drugs in the market such as Mandrax, a prescription sleeping pill that was abused by drug users back then.

He attempted to stop his addiction a few times but just could not succeed.

Johan, who got married a third time when he was 45, said his first wife divorced him because of his criminal activities.

They were married when he was 21, and the union lasted 10 years.

"I was in and out (of jail), and she said she couldn't cope with that," he said.

He met his second wife through a neighbour, and they got to know each other for six months before they were married when he was 40.

Johan did not reveal his past to his in-laws, but they found out a few months later.

That second marriage lasted only a year.

In 1994, he married his current wife, who is now 72. He has two stepdaughters.

Johan works as a cleaner in an office building, earning about $1,300 a month. He has worked there for over two years.

'DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL'

At work, he adopts a "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

The jobs he applies for are on a contract basis and the employers do not really check his background. His current boss does not know about his tainted past.

"It's not a passion for me to work. I just do it to have some activities to occupy my day," Johan said.

He works from 7.30am to 4.30pm daily, then meets some of his childhood friends to chat over coffee.

He also goes for walks in the Commonwealth area with his wife, volunteers at a mosque and attends religious study sessions.

He resolved to turn over a new leaf after his last prison stint ended in 2017.

"Every time I go in and come out, there are new train lines I don't know how to take and new smartphones I don't know how to use," he said.

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COURT & CRIME